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Freshman Junyi Wu leads Hickman boys tennis team to victory over Helias

Monday, April 2, 2012 | 9:43 p.m. CDT; updated 10:01 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 2, 2012
Hickman freshman Junyi Wu returns a volley during a doubles match against Helias at Washington Park in Jefferson City on Monday. Hickman defeated Helias 8-1.

JEFFERSON CITY — Freshman Hickman boys tennis player Junyi Wu looks like he has been playing his whole life. But he has been taking the sport seriously for only about a year.

Wu shuffled and shifted on the court in his bright yellow shoes like it was a choreographed dance during an easy 8-1 Hickman victory over Helias Catholic on Monday in Jefferson City. He and senior Daniel Wang won the No. 1 doubles match 10-5 and then Wu won his No. 1 singles match, 10-1. 

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"He's an extremely talented freshman," Hickman coach Andrew Materer said. "He's one of the best freshman I've seen play the game, so he's got a great career ahead of him.

"He hits the ball really hard. He's got all the skills to improve. He's really going to be a big star for us." 

Wu mostly focused on being a swimmer until a couple of years ago, when he realized he could no longer improve his times, his mother said. Then he turned to tennis, playing a few tournaments once every month or two, he said.

"Really, I started playing tournaments last year and started just building up to high school playing," Wu said. 

In what was just his second high school match, Wu made it look easy and sounded confident despite playing against Helias' No. 1 singles player, Nick Kroeger, who is a senior.

"I mostly just put the ball in play and let him make mistakes," Wu said. "He started to pick up his game, later in the game, towards the end. I had to also pick up my game, so I just matched his game and really made him make the error."

Wu wasn't Hickman's only player to do well. The Kewpies labored in the 90-degree heat and nearly swept the match.

"It was a great day for Hickman," Materer said. "We had a tough match with (Helias) last year – we lost 5-4. So it felt great to win.

"We got a really deep team — one of my deeper teams since we've been here. Real happy how we played in the heat. It was a good match across."

The Kewpies' No. 2 singles player, senior Alex Hoffmeister, withdrew from his match because of concerns about his health caused by the heat, giving Hickman its only loss.

The Kewpies are 2-0 this season. They play next against Rock Bridge at 4 p.m. Thursday at Columbia's Cosmo-Bethel Park.


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